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Lai Forces N3.5m Lie Down El-Zakzaky’s Throat By Tunde Odesola

Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari, another Mohammed is the second most-hated member of the ruling All Progressives Congress by the opposition. A great leader, polyglot, politician, PR expert, media consultant, husband, father and grandfather; his full name is Lai Mohammed. Lie, as his haters are wont to call him, burst into political reckoning as a…”
November 12, 2018 11:35 am

Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari, another Mohammed is the second most-hated member of the ruling All Progressives Congress by the opposition. A great leader, polyglot, politician, PR expert, media consultant, husband, father and grandfather; his full name is Lai Mohammed. Lie, as his haters are wont to call him, burst into political reckoning as a member the Bola Ahmed Tinubu political gang in 1999. Lai, as his admirers saintly call him, cut his political teeth in the fury of Lagos politics as the first Chief of Staff in a democratic setting in the country. Alhaji Lai is a great mind and a good listener. He’s also highly intelligent. He knows the weight and importance of words. He knows when to talk and when not to. No amount of pressure will make him divulge classified information if he doesn’t feel there’s the need to so do. I know Alhaji Lai – having attended a number of his press conferences. He’s killingly witty, too. I think he’s not vindictive because the more he’s detracted, the more constructively engaging, not combatively, he becomes. Alhaji knows his job. But the members of the Peoples Democratic Party, sadly, do not see the virtues I see in Alhaji Lai. They see him as a first-class peddler of falsehood, who can talk you into believing the sun is scorching when you’re drenched in rain. They also fear him. They believe that in his tongue lies the power of political life and death. Ever punctual, Alhaji Lai was the linchpin of the effective but brutal opposition media machinery that dealt devastating blows to the Olusegun Obasanjo and Musa Yar’Adua administrations before stifling life out of the ineffective Goodluck Jonathan administration. I’m sure both Jonathan and his wife, Patience, are still living with some memories of the nightmares in which Alhaji Lai appeared to them, dragging them by the scruff and hauling them through the window, out of the Villa – with his acidic criticisms of their doomed government. So, when Alhaji Lai mounted the saddle as Information and Culture Minister-designate, it was understandable why his appearance before the Senate for confirmation was the testiest among the list of ministers-designate that showed up before the criminally rich legislators. The lawmakers, made up of numerous PDP members, were hell-bent on taking their pound of flesh. But trust Alhaji Lai, he talked his way out of the booby traps set by the agitated PDP lawmakers. And he became the Minister of Information and Culture to continue his great job of dishing out trustless information to an ungrateful nation.

An ungrateful nation won’t, if not for Alhaji Lai, know the extent of the Odi misadventure by the Obasanjo administration and the details of the billions of dollars the Owu general spent on providing Nigerians with darkness and seeking a third term tenure.

I love, trust and respect Alhaji Lai. So, when he said in a news conference last week that the Federal Government spends N3.5m to feed the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, monthly, I became worried, afraid and sad. I was worried about the mammoth el-Zakzaky must have ballooned into, guzzling N3.5m worth of food monthly. I was afraid about the health of the nation’s currency, thinking a used sanitary pad must have been worthier than the naira for el-Zakzaky to live on N3.5m meal per month. I became sad coming to the realisation that there’s no difference between the foregone Jonathan administration and holier-than-thou Buhari misgovernment. I’m also sad because many Nigerians would still hail the disaster called anti-corruption fight under the watch of Buhari.

Not wanting to be part of an ungrateful nation oblivious of the great work the Tinubu-inspired Lai had done to reposition the country via accurate fable dissemination, I went to the prestigious Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos Island, to know how much it costs to feed a mouth for a month. To start your day with a tea and coffee break in the world-class hotel, the least you will fork out is N1, 200. For buffet breakfast, the least you will pay is N7, 200. El-Zakzaky isn’t expected to take alcohol. If he does, it must not be in public. So, I only booked mineral water which is N600 for him. My math, like the integrity of Nigeria’s political class, is dubious. But I don’t need a Chike Obi or Ayodele Awojobi to tell me that el-Zakzaky, his wife and five other members of their family cannot exhaust N3.5m monthly on food and drinks at the Federal Palace Hotel even if they eat N7, 200 buffet twice daily. They sure would get some discount.

Worried, afraid and sad about the el-Zakzaky information Alhaji Lai dished out, I went after a younger friend, Adesola Yussuff, a renowned caterer in Osogbo with tentacles across the country. She told me her outfit could provide food for 650 guests at the cost N3.5m – drinks, hall, videographer, DJ and MC, hosts and hostesses and event coordinator inclusive. She went on to give a breakdown of how the sum of N3.5m would be spent to include: N150,000 each for three cows, two bags of rice, N15,000 of Semovita to serve 100 people, N10,000 worth of yams to serve pottage and pounded yam for 75 people while a quarter bag of yam flour would serve 150 people and N10,000 Ofada rice would serve 100 people just as four Ogunfe at N100,000 in all would be added to the offering while a musician would be hired in Osogbo for N200,000k. She said that at N1,900 per crate, 10 crates of minerals would serve 240 people; at N500 per pack, 50 packs of bottled water would serve 600 guests while ‘Five Alive’ at N3,000 per pack serves 100 people if 10 packs are bought for N30,000 even as she went on to give a breakdown of all other items such as malt drinks, wines, beers, etc that would be brought with N3.5m. To cap it all, she said the fee of the caterer is included in the N3.5m.

I want to believe that Alhaji Lai did Nigeria a world of good to Nigeria by saying the truth in the el-Zakzaky food palaver even though many haters would say the truth came out despite efforts to cover it in the cocoon of “off the record.” I understand Aso Rock has barred the journalist who leaked the “off the record” from entering the Villa for four months – that is typical of the intolerance of the Buhari government. Thank God this is not 1984 when Buhari held Shehu Shagari – the head of the corrupt Second Republic government he toppled – under house arrest but jailed Dr Alex Ekwueme, Shagari’s deputy, among several other governors and politicians from other ethnic regions.

If we were in 1984, Buhari would have shot the courageous reporter that leaked the el-Zakzaky N3.5m food allowance story, and Alhaji Lai would have gone on air fuming and raising dust, pontificating about how unethical it was to publish an “off the record” information, stressing that adherence to professional ethics is far greater than the national interest which the N3.5m information revelation was meant to serve.

Nothing gives the lie to the shocking amount claimed to be spent on the cleric monthly than the joke by the Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, who seated by Alhaji Lai’s side, said he wanted to be detained too and fed only with N500,000, adding that he’s ready to forgo the N3m.

Ha, Alhaaaji!

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